Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

My New Son

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

My New Son

Article excerpt

I feel so confused, hurt and utterly sad. The child I thought was mine is gone.

I want to cry. Cry for the child who will never ask, "Why?" "Why do the leaves tum red in autumn?" "Why do I have to go to bed right now?" "Why are you crying, Daddy.?"

Son, what will you be when you grow up? I once thought you might be a zoologist, traveling to exotic places, studying the rare and wonderful animals you've always loved.

When you were less than a year old, sitting motionless, listening to Mommy's choir sing, I dreamt that someday you would be a creator of beautiful music.

My child has been taken from me! But that can't be. He's here with me now. He hasn't changed. Yet still, I feel as though he's gone. My child has somehow died. The child of my dreams and hopes is no more.

I know these feelings are normal and helpful, that I shouldn't feel guilty for having them. All the experts tell me this. But it doesn't help the pain.

Things are getting better now. The funeral for the child of my expectations is over now. Oh, I still visit the cemetery from time to time. I put Cub Scout caps and grade-school science projects at his grave. But I don't spend so much time there anymore.

I have another son to love. The one they call "autistic." He's such a sweet boy. He's never mean to anyone, and he squeezes so tight when he hugs me. He loves to dance with his daddy, and he gets such a cute smile on his face when he says, "I did it!"

He's still the same boy who loves monkeys, Peter Pan, kiwi fruit and throwing rocks in the water.

I'm learning to love my new son, and he has always loved me.

Bob Maier works as a fisheries biologist for the federal government. He lives witk his wife, Deborah and two sons - Karl, 6, and Keith, 4, in Edmonds, Washington. Bob wrote this poem soon after Karl was diagnosed with autism at age three.

Karl is now fully included, with the help of an aide, in a regular kindergarten ctass at his local elementary school. Recently, to his father's surprise and delight, he has started asking his first "why" questions.

Bob's favorite activity is picking blueberries with his family in the early autumn sun of the Cascade mountains near their home. Karl's favorite activity is bouncing on his trampoline while watching Disney videos. …

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